Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Member of Parliament for St James Central and attorney-at-law Kerrie Symmonds has raised concerns over the possible takeover of Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) by the Brazilian brewery, Ambev.
Symmonds has questioned Ambev’s sincerity, speculating that the company, which is the biggest brewery in Latin America and the fifth largest in the world, was trying to dominate the drinks business in the hemisphere.
It already owns just over 40 per cent of the shares in BHL and has offered a share price of $4 to the remaining shareholders.
“I don’t want to jeopardize the process but I question the sincerity of these people’s interest in Banks. Right now that company they now own 50 per cent of the USA beer market. They are trying to purchase Miller and Coors, which would give them 70 per cent of the USA market. At that point they pretty much have controlled the hemisphere because they already own the vast majority of what is happening in the Caribbean and Latin America. So I think it is a bit of a stretch to ask us to believe that they are tying to buy this thing over in order to make Banks Beer better. I think what they are trying to do is create domination across this hemisphere,” Symmonds said following the presentation of tablets to Class 3 students of the Welches Primary School in St Thomas by the Aron and Christina Foundation.
Ambev needs an additional ten per cent of the shares of BHL to gain control of the local brewery and has promised to “grow and develop the local market” as much as possible and to use Barbados as a hub for exports to the Caribbean region.
“The first priority for us is to invest and grow the Banks brand in the Barbados market. And we also want to export our brand from Dominican Republic from here, which is called Presidente. It is the number one beer in the Caribbean today and this is one of our intention as well, to use the plant here as a hub to export,” vice president for Central America and the Caribbean Eduardo Lacerda told Barbados TODAY earlier this week.
Larcerda admitted in the interview that the company’s attempt to take control of BHL was part of a strategy to grow Ambev’s presence in the Caribbean and Central America.
“And we saw an opportunity to enter the Barbados market now and therefore we want to use this opportunity to expand our operations and keep on growing in the region. We are brewers. This is our business and we want to continue in this business and continue growing,” he said at the time.
Symmonds has called for a public discussion on the takeover bid and said he did not like the fact that the average Barbadian did not have a say in the process. He also expressed concern for the fate of the smaller shareholders.
“We have to protect the rights of the minority shareholders. It may mean changing the Companies Act of Barbados so as to ensure that if you get 90 per cent of the shareholders in agreement, the minority 10 per cent still can be part of the shareholding structure of the future company,” he suggested while urging Barbadians to take greater interest in what was theirs.
“With respect to that takeover that represents the way the world works and there is not much we can do as either Government or Opposition . . . [Barbadians must] make serious investments in companies which gives you shareholding interest and that is the only way that you would be able to control via the process of corporate governance. You control the future and the destiny of those institutions, which are culturally relevant and economically significant to you. I know that we have to do a lot more awareness building,” he added.
Ambev currently boasts some of the best-known brands of beer in Latin America including Skol, Brahma and Quilmes, as well as Labatt and Budweiser in Canada.
Besides Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Chile and the Dominican Republic, the company also has operations in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The company has promised it will not make name changes to the BHL operations should it succeed in its takeover bid.